This year’s Rugby League World Cup has officially been postponed until 2022 following on from the withdrawal of reigning champions Australia and New Zealand.
It was only a matter of time before the delay was announced after the two nations pulled out of the tournament last month citing concerns for player welfare and safety related to Covid-19. It was said that the organisers were given only four minutes’ notice of the two nations’ intentions to boycott the RLWC on 22 July – so the call to push the tournament back a year seemed inevitable, with all those involved having been locked in emergency talks since.
The event is set to feature men’s, women’s and wheelchair events , and was due to start at Newcastle United’s St James’ Park on 23 October. The organisers were determined to press ahead with the tournament without the two giants but they were forced to back down as all 16 NRL clubs supported the postponement.
In a statement, the tournament’s Chief Executive Officer Jon Dutton said: “Reluctantly, we have had to take the very difficult decision to move the staging of the tournament to 2022. This follows the disappointing withdrawals of Australia and New Zealand and the subsequent challenges we have constantly faced.
“Our vision has always been to deliver the biggest and best ever Rugby League World Cup – and we will still do that in 2022.
“We will work relentlessly to ensure that the tournament and sport of Rugby League has a world class tournament that champions inclusivity with the men’s, women’s and wheelchair competitions being held together for the first time ever at a major sporting event.
“We will continue creating positive social change within communities – whether that’s via our multi-million-pound investment in Rugby League facilities or through to our mental fitness charter, which aims to reduce suicide rates in young males.
“Rugby League has faced adversity since it was born in 1895, and now is a time for all the stakeholders across the sport to show leadership. The one thing that constantly shines through in Rugby League is relentless resilience.
“Fans are the lifeblood of our sport, and it has been heart-warming to see your passion, enthusiasm and how much the growth of international Rugby League means to you all in recent weeks.
“I believe our tournament will be a transformative moment in the sport’s history. It will be 12 months later than planned, but we will welcome the best athletes to the best stadia across England, with the eyes of the world on our sport.”